Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2017 – Race Preview


Yesterday’s bone rattling 72nd edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was another entertaining affair which mirrored last year’s battle between Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan. With today’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne forming the second half of a weekend few would want to be in the saddle for, it will not only be a case of who looks in good shape here, but also who survived yesterday best too. The course is a snaking 200.7km of familiar Belgian roads and hellingen, continually sapping the legs of the riders, often culminating in a sprint finish to crown the day’s victor. Last year’s winner Jasper Stuyven caused a major upset when attacking solo, fending off a large coordinated chasing group and crossing the finish line uncontested. Given the depth of sprinting talent on offer today, it is anticipated that the day’s finale should once again take the shape of a large bunch kick, especially with Stuyven’s victory still fresh in the mind of many.




Tom Boonen abandoned yesterday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad having realised that his chances of victory had slipped away up the road in the wheel tracks of Sep Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan. His team Quick Step had failed to feature amongst the crucial move and will have no doubt been told that the same cannot be allowed to happen here as well. Boonen is eager to sign off his final races with victories on home soil, meaning there is no question as to how focused he will be to securing a good performance today.

Sam Bennett might be afforded the support of World Champion teammate Peter Sagan in an attempt to lead the Irishman out for victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Bennett is a gritty rider at times and can summon up the determination required to survive these attritional races ahead of a bunch kick.

Alexander Kristoff will be a favourite for many as the Norwegian seeks to kickstart his classics campaign with an early victory upon the cobblestones. He has finished second on a couple of occasions at this race in recent years and may find that third time is the charm after an encouraging start to his season so far.

Peter Sagan may well decide that he should be gifted leadership here, attempting to resolve yesterday’s disappointment of finishing second to Greg Van Avermaet yet again at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Though many of the sprinters in the mix for this are much faster than Sagan, this fact becomes less relevant after 200km of riding, after which we can expect Sagan to be one of the fastest left in the race.

Arnaud Démare is still developing a profile amongst the one day classics, though does appear to show a level of natural ability when it comes to these long affairs which are intended to break many riders ahead of the finish. He does not always show the wisest of tactical decisions, but his survival skills and sprinting ability are well documented, making him a contender regardless.

Nacer Bouhanni possesses everything required to win this race, yet may find himself forgotten by some pundits due to his lack of major one day race victories. The last couple of seasons have seen him perform well at classics such as Milan – San Remo, keeping himself safe throughout the race, then bursting to the fore with his signature burst of acceleration.


1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Nacer Bouhanni 3rd Sam Bennett


Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2017 – Race Preview


The peloton dip their toes into the freezing waters of the classics season for the first time in 2017, as the hellingen of Belgium seek to break riders’ spirits before Spring as even arrived. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will not only drop the flag to begin its 198.3km journey out of Gent and back again, but also signal the start of the oncoming wave of cobbled races which traditionalists view as the true beginning to the cycling season. Many riders will be familiar with the roads and climbs used during the days race, as given the size of Belgium, parts of the course also crop up in classics such as Ronde van Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke. A total of 13 different hellingen and 10 pavé sections will combine to make this a selective race where much of the final action occurs during the concluding 50km, as the attritional nature of the contest sees the most cunning riders capitalise en route to victory.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad


Peter Sagan is the day’s favourite for many people, arriving here in the rainbow stripes of the World Champion for the second consecutive year after finishing behind Greg Van Avermaet in 2016. Sagan’s programme so far this year has been light, gradually building him into race condition without having to risk him amongst the season’s early twitchy races. The last couple of years have cemented the belief that Sagan can near enough achieve anything which he desires, and given that the obstacles present today are his favoured hunting grounds, it is difficult to believe Peter Sagan will not win in Gent.

Sep Vanmarcke is yet to find a great deal of glory in races such as these, a surprising factor when seeing him put his rivals to the sword by accelerating over cobbled sectors and hills. The Belgian rider has been plagued continually by bad luck, mechanical issues and poor tactics whenever looking in good contention for a cobbled victory. Regardless, he has always performed well at this time of year and on this type of terrain, Vanmarcke now possesses a stronger team to support him and can hopefully earn a much deserved win at last.

Greg Van Avermaet was last year’s champion, finally getting the better of rival Peter Sagan in a reduced sprint and will be aware that a rematch may well be on the cards in 2017. His ability to always be in the right race move, following the wheels of his major rivals, has always been an impressive skill of his during these often chaotic affairs. Avermaet will no doubt be as astute as ever here, but his preparation has not been ideal due to a broken ankle sustained late last year. This means he could be somewhat behind his expected condition for this time of year, however, if there is one man who can overcome a physical disadvantage through mental strength it is Avermaet.

Tiesj Benoot made all the right moves last year, finishing amongst the elite pack of five riders which decided the race, led home by Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan. He has been much hyped by his home nation of Belgium and is shouldering the burden of being marked as their future saviour for the cobbled classics. His current form is extremely encouraging and there is every reason to believe that he will once again feature as part of the group which crowns the day’s winner.

Luke Rowe was one of the other riders who made it to the finish in the leading pack last year and is in the type of condition which suggests he could be in the mix once again. Despite his diminishing prowess as a sprinter, the Welshman is developing a skill for solo moves, something which he demonstrated earlier in the year at the Herald Sun Tour; a performance which should not be forgotten by his rivals today.

Tom Boonen and Zdenek Stybar pose a headache for their team Quick Step, as each have a proven ability to really shake things up during a gritty contest like this. Between the two of them, there is the ability to either solo away to victory or wait in hope of a sprint finish, but it will be tough to choose which is best to back. The Belgian outfit have a poor reputation for tactical nous after their farcical finale in 2015, making this a very interesting dynamic to watch throughout the day.

Other noteworthy riders who could cause a stir are Alexander KristoffJasper StuyvenNiki TerpstraIan Stannard and Jens Debusschere


1st Peter Sagan 2nd Sep Vanmarcke 3rd Luke Rowe